**spoiler alert** a) This is a review of the film, not the book. b) It contains fuckloads of spoilers. Bad films can be fun, but this, whilst watching...more**spoiler alert** a) This is a review of the film, not the book. b) It contains fuckloads of spoilers. Bad films can be fun, but this, whilst watching it, was the wrong kind of bad, although it's somehow more fun to remember. (Just remembering the highlights, probably.) There were few laughs until about half way through. At least I enjoyed spotting cast members from Lilyhammer - same as recognising Danish supporting actors in films after The Killing and Borgen.
The set-up of Headhunters is a beta versus alpha male pursuit / vendetta - later revealed to be [a pointlessly wacko way of doing] industrial espionage. Roger Brown - typically Norwegian name there, but presumably his parents were British, handily for international sales - is a corporate headhunter with a Napoleon complex. He's short, weedy, red-haired and knowingly tries to make up for his sense of inferiority by exercising power over high-flying executives, having a huge house he can't afford and a supermodel-esque wife he's constantly scared of losing. Oh, and by indulging in a bit of art theft, to help pay for the mortgage and gifts for the wife. As a protagonist he's a hard sell: he's cold, socially manipulative, not particularly attractive, and he's already got a lot of what mr. average viewer who feels 'beta' would probably like in life. There's no sense of art or irony in any of the characterisation. Telling the story from his viewpoint helps elicit some sympathy. But it's hard not to see the easiest solution as being to stop stealing stuff and wait a few months until he comes to the full realisation he needs to get a divorce and sell the house.
At the opening of an exhibition, Brown meets Claes Greve, a suave, square-jawed 6ft+ half-Dane half-Dutchman who's recently taken early retirement in his mid-30s after selling his GPS company to Americans. Greve owns an illicit Rubens, missing since the Second World War; his grandmother had been given the picture by a German soldier she slept with. Obviously Brown decides to nick this rare treasure with the assistance of his henchman, whom he'd placed at a private security and alarm company. (Strangely enough, everyone he decides to steal from turns out to have their alarm with this company.)
Brown find his wife's phone in Greve's empty bed and vows that Greve will never get a job in Norway. Thereafter a bizarre and macguffinish cross-country manhunt of Brown by Greve ensues, including a number of guns, dead bodies, car crashes, the obligatory Nordic-thriller scenes in country cabins, and miscellaneous extreme survival situations. (It has that background sense that it's who you are in those situations that really counts, something I admit I've carried around with me as long as I can remember, even though with this health, no amount of willpower and effort could make me as hard as Sarah Connor.)
The most absurd stupid-action-movie scene in the whole thing is when Brown, now brown because he's literally covered in shit after hiding in a cesspit, has been mauled by Greve's mastiff, impales said mastiff on a rusty forklift in a barn in self defence, then steals the forklift, and goes rumbling and creaking along the night-time road away from his pursuer, still with the dead dog attached. Those who can't help thinking about things like septicaemia may be relieved to know that soon afterwards he gets medical attention before continuing his adventures, the filmmakers not having abandoned logic in every single area. Although re. how many car crash scenes feature a razor which a survivor could use to shave his head, I am rather sceptical.
I looked at some other opinions on Headhunters the film after writing this and was surprised how well it was regarded. I don't watch a lot of recent films, but can accept that it probably is better than many for relying on real, just about possible, stunts rather than on CGI and shakycam. By comparison with films 30+ years its senior though (my usual yardstick - though admittedly man of those are modern classics) it was absurd because the characters' motivations were barely existent to flimsy.
In the end, the whole business functions to transform Brown not into a paranoid, injured wreck, but a warmer, more confident and less materialistic chap who's happy with his height and loved by his glamorous wife. A paintballing weekend would have been less hassle though. And less cheesy. Apparently the story is supposed to comment on corporate ethics, but even the average episode of The Brittas Empire did that better. 11/09/14(less)